In dozens of petitions filed in courts across New York City, public defenders are arguing that a Supreme Court ruling last month that expanded gun rights significantly left the government with no cases against their clients.
Court repeal a law of New York about carrying handguns in public, and Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in her decision that the Second Amendment guarantees the general right to carry a handgun openly. That, defenders have argued, given New York’s laws criminalizing firearm possession – and the resulting charges against their clients – are unconstitutional.
Their arguments mark the beginning of what could be a lengthy legal campaign to use the Supreme Court’s ruling for the benefit of people accused of carrying a firearm in New York City.
Experts say these arguments should not be refuted.
“From a legal perspective, from analyzing the Supreme Court decision, there is merit,” said Steve Zeidman, a law professor at City University of New York law school and director of the school’s criminal clinic. huge for these moves.
“The Supreme Court case has definitely changed the game,” he added. “The question is its application to the daily arrests, prosecutions and trials in New York City and New York State. And, frankly, nationwide. “
But so far, the judges have not responded. In the Bronx, a judge, Ralph Fabrizio, noted that a defendant charged with third-degree firearm possession did not prove or even claim that he had obtained a license to carry a 9mm Smith semi-automatic firearm. and Wesson.
The Supreme Court, Justice Fabrizio wrote, “has not violated the law the conduct of individuals who have chosen to violate state law by arming themselves and carrying and concealing any weapon they wish.” hide, whenever and wherever they wish to do so, without having to apply for a permit.”
Other judges were more concise. Margaret Clancy, also of the Bronx, wrote in a page-long decision about a similar motion: “This is completely incorrect.”
Those cases can be appealed – and at least some of them can.
Many challenges have been presented before New York passed a new law this month restrict the public from carrying guns. Most parts of that measure went into effect in September, and Mr Zeidman said moves to challenge it in state criminal court “would be something to watch”.
motion series, the City’s first report, attest to how the Court’s decision has changed the foundations of gun laws in even the most liberal cities.
The Legal Aid Association would not say how many moves citing the Supreme Court ruling it has filed. But the organization’s chief criminal defense practice attorney, Tina Luongo, said in a statement, “As we have always done, we will present all available and valid legal arguments.” to protect our customers and continue to urge policymakers to focus on real solutions to gun violence, which are outside the criminal justice system.”
Public protection organizations are primarily motivated by the interests of their clients. That sometimes takes them by surprise, as with gun rights organizations in the Supreme Court case. Forty years ago, they teamed up with the New York City Benevolent Police Association to successfully fight state law that would strip away some of the protections that jury witnesses receive.
Aidan Johnston, federal affairs director for Gun Owners of America, a lobbying group, says he supports the goal of protection activities.
“Violent offenders should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “But owning a gun, carrying a gun in public, is not a crime. And New York has been violating the right of New Yorkers to carry guns in public for decades.”
Racial equality is the main reason defenders support two new area residents’ successful challenge to centuries-old gun laws, which they say have too often been applied in a discriminatory fashion. . The law requires that anyone who wants to carry a gun openly in New York must demonstrate a particularly pressing need. Justice Thomas wrote in the decision that the law gave too much discretion to local officials and often trampled on the Second Amendment.
In a brief court filing ahead of the ruling, city defense groups, including Legal Aid, Bronx Defenders and the Brooklyn Defender Service, said they support reversing the law. They argue that “New York has enacted gun licensing requirements to criminalize gun ownership by racial and ethnic minorities. That still has the effect of its enforcement by police and prosecutors today. “
But some prosecutors and elected officials, even when agreeing with the enforcement fairness arguments, say the court’s decision leaves the state with the right to enforce reasonable rules on enforcement. gun.
“More guns on our streets lead to more violence,” Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement. “New York’s strict gun regulations and strict licensing regime are integral to keeping us safe and we are required to comply with those laws.”
A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, called the court’s ruling a “disaster” but said the office did not believe it would affect those charged with illegal firearms possession. who have never applied for a permit or been denied.
“We will continue to take steps to protect Brooklynns from illegal firearms,” he said.
And Zellnor Myrie, a state senator representing neighborhoods in Downtown and South Brooklyn, says data should be kept on how gun regulations are applied to explain racial disparities.
Still, he said, the state must still protect people from the flood of guns – especially those used without a license.
“The public safety requirement to keep guns on our streets is very strong,” he said. “And my hope is that the courts will continue to look at it in the same way.”